MEA Endowment Fund delivers competitive investment returns for 2018

(Mennonite Education Agency) — The Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) Endowment Fund delivered competitive investment returns, performing in the top 25th percentile of its peer group, according to data gathered from 802 U.S. colleges and universities for the 2018 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the MEA Endowment Fund delivered a net return (after fees) of 8.8% compared to its peer group average of 7.9%. MEA’s endowment pool held $162.8 million as of June 30. Its peer cohort includes other funds with assets ranging from $101 million to $250 million.

“The work of the Investment Committee is extremely important,” said Carlos Romero, executive director of MEA, upon receiving the results of the study. “During these times of significant challenges in higher education, to be good stewards of a very important resource and provide our affiliated institutions with competitive investment returns is something to celebrate.”

 

Over longer time periods, the MEA Endowment Fund has also delivered competitive returns. For the three-year period ending June 30, 2018, the Fund has generated average returns of 6.7% compared to the peer group average of 6.0%, which again places the MEA Fund in the top quartile. Over the trailing five-year period, the fund averaged 7.5% per annum, which was just under top quartile performance.

 

“I am extremely gratified to see the impact of these returns and the opportunities they provide for our church-affiliated colleges, seminaries and secondary education students and faculty to fulfill their missions,” said John L. Liechty, chair of the MEA Investment Committee. “We take seriously our fiduciary responsibility of achieving financial returns while respecting the Stewardship Investing Core Values that guide our investment decision-making.”

 

The MEA Endowment Fund’s unique pool arrangement affords several benefits by combining assets from eighteen Mennonite-affiliated institutions to access alternative investments that would likely not be available to any single entity, according to Liechty. These provide important diversification and hold potential for higher long-term investment returns. The pooled arrangement also allows for administrative efficiencies and avoids the need for each institution to incur an operations expense to support the school’s endowment, Liechty said.

Since 2006, investors in the MEA Endowment Fund have collectively received over $106 million in distributions that have been used to fund scholarships and faculty chair positions, in addition to many other projects that support the institution’s mission. Most investors take annual distributions representing 4-5% of their account balance.

The MEA Investment Committee relies heavily on partnership support from several organizations.  Mercer Consulting, the largest institutional consulting firm worldwide, provides deep technical knowledge and experience. Everence provides important investment operations support and shares its stewardship investing research, advocacy and proxy voting expertise.

“I have been fortunate to work with dedicated committee members, who willingly volunteer their time and expertise on behalf of our Mennonite educational institutions,” said Lisa Heinz, senior director for operations and chief financial officer of MEA. “They have done a remarkable job of fulfilling the dual mandate of generating strong investment returns while adhering to the Stewardship Investing Core Values that guide the Committee’s work.”

The MEA Investment Committee consists of nine volunteer members, including an ex officio member from the MEA Board. Committee members bring formal institutional investment management experience and care deeply about the future of higher education in Mennonite Church USA.


Contributed by Mennonite Church USA/MEA Staff  –  3/28/2019